Emmanuel Jalai was at Rufaro Stadium when Dynamos beat Momomotapa in the Mbada Diamonds Cup final in November 2012.
He watched Kalisto Pasuwa’s men overcome Monomotapa thanks to a Rodreck Mutuma brace, to complete a remarkable back to back league and cup success.
Jalai was just 13 years of age then and dreaming of playing for the club that he loved and supported throughout his childhood —Dynamos.
He simply believed the iconic blue and white DeMbare strip propels a player to stardom in Zimbabwe.
“I grew up supporting Dynamos, it is a big team and a big brand, not only in Zimbabwe, but in Africa,” Jalai told Soccer24.
“I just believed that for you to be on top, you have to aim high, so for you to be a great footballer in Zimbabwe, you have to aim for Dynamos. That is what I grew up believing,” he added.
The diminutive defender was at some point close to signing a contract at now defunct How Mine, and later joined DeMbare’s crosstown rivals CAPS United, but fate had it that he would eventually be in the blue half of the capital.
He clear remembers his journey to becoming a Dynamos player.
“I joined Aces Youth Academy in 2013, through the U-16 Coca-Cola tournament. The coaches from Aces came looking for players. Luckily, I was invited for trials and that is how I joined Aces,” recalls Jalai.
“In 2018, I went for trials at How Mine. I passed and got a contract but sadly, they (How Mine) decided to sell their franchise to Harare City.
“When that happened, it was just two days before the PSL registration period closed. So I went back home, trained at Aces for two weeks, then I joined CAPS United on the developmental players slot.
“I never played any game for CAPS, I was there for six months and later went to back to Aces,” said Jalai.
The turning point in the roving right-back’s career was his selection in the national U-20 squad for the Cosafa tournament played in Zambia, in 2019.
“I was selected to be part of the Young Warriors squad for the Cosafa Championship in Zambia. That tournament was broadcast on Kwese TV and that is when then Dynamos coach Lloyd Chigowe spotted me and invited me for trials in 2019. That is when I joined Dynamos,” remembers Jalai, adding that the opportunity to play for DeMbare doesn’t come twice, hence he had to grab it.
“I was happy to be invited for trials at the club I supported growing up. It’s an opportunity I had to grab with both hands because to get an Invitational trial there is not easy because everyone wants to play for Dynamos,” said Jalai.
“When I got a contract, I was delighted, logically, because managing to achieve something you dreamt of as a kid is great. Anyone else would be on cloud nine and I’m no exception,” added Jalai.
The enterprising right-back believes he has greatly improved as a player since joining DeMbare.
“As a player, I have developed a lot through playing for Dynamos. At Dynamos, every game is a cup final, hence mentally and physically, you have to be strong. So as a player I’m developing because the pressure is always there,” explained Jalai.
“The love from the supporters has also contributed for me to be where I am today. I have good relationship with the supporters and they always give me words of encouragement every time I meet them in the street,” he added.
The recently-recruited Hebert Maruwa-led Dynamos technical team made Jalai vice captain for the 2023 season —an achievement the former Young Warriors star is very proud of.
“I’m very proud to be one of the captains, it shows that the coaches have trust in me so I have to return that trust by doing my best and help my teammates, so that we reach the goals that we want to reach this season,” said Jalai.
“I just have to double up my effort, be it on the field of play and discipline wise because whenever you are a leader, you have to lead by example,” he added.
Jalai supported Dynamos throughout his childhood, but in a flash, he went from being just a fan, to the team’s vice captain.